You've Been Trumped
Directed by Anthony Baxter
Don't screw with Donald Trump. That's one of the possibly unintended messages of You've Been Trumped, a documentary about a group of homeowners, politicians, artists and activists in northern Scotland who struggled in vain to defeat plans for a mega golf course resort and hotel built by the swoop-haired billionaire Trump.
Filmmaker Anthony Baxter obviously intended to show the ugly side of Trump's development projects and the phoniness of his traveling publicity machine. And he succeeds to a degree. Trump, the one-time U.S. presidential hopeful and reality-show host, is seen glad-handing Scottish politicians and media, trying to buy off locals with job offers and making outrageous claims about anyone who resists the project. His contractors appear to ignore property lines and rules of land use in shocking ways. But the attention-hungry Trump must subscribe to the "There's no such thing as bad publicity" theory, and so, ultimately, a documentary film that portrays him as a ruthless plutocrat who gets what he wants, crushes the opposition and basically buys complicity from local government and police only serves to further The Donald's gaudy claims to fame and influence.
If one is looking for a David-beats-Goliath story of uplift, this isn't it. The people of Aberdeenshire are good rural folk, descendants of farmers and salmon fishermen. Trump's company bought land including ecologically sensitive wilderness and dunes in 2005, and later announced plans to build a 450-bedroom hotel, and when the local government rejected plans for the development in 2007 it may have seemed the end of the story. But the Scottish government made the unprecedented move to intervene and overturn the local decision in favor of the promise of economic development.
When a few owners of abutting properties refuse to sell their houses to make way for the project, in the national media Trump belittles the farmers for living in "pigsty" conditions and claims that he has "tremendous" support from environmentalists, despite no indication of support from any credible nature groups. One naturalist compares the region to the Amazon rainforest and says the development — especially the plans to artificially stabilize the dunes — will destroy the region's natural dynamism. Those who oppose the project are in danger of having their property taken by eminent domain (known as compulsory purchase orders in Great Britain). Baxter follows the groundbreaking on the project, where he is harassed by security guards for the development as well as by local police.
When the contractors dig up trees and put up a road near a spring that feeds one of the farmer's wells, causing a stoppage to his water supply, the builders don't seem to be in a hurry to fix the problem. "If it was me cut off their water I would have been charged by now," says salmon fisherman Michael Forbes, the landowner and local symbol of resistance to the golf course.
Likewise, as a blatant act of hostility Trump's team uses earthmoving equipment to pile up three-story-high mountains of soil and sand at the property lines of the stubborn locals to basically block their views.
The golf course, which opened in July, has so far only created a few dozen local jobs, not the hundreds promised.